Focus on Safety

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Fellow USAFE Airmen and Families,

As I've been observing USAFE operations over the past month, I've been impressed with your dedication and selfless attitude. You are pushing hard to accomplish the mission and I truly appreciate it.

What I have also observed is that we continue to have mishaps that post-event investigations tell us could have been prevented. Our Airmen and their families, and the equipment provided by taxpayer dollars, are far too precious to be wasted through failure to behave responsibly and keep our focus on the task at hand.

USAFE started off FY08 fantastically. Unfortunately, in the past week and a half, we've seen a slip in safety slip across both USAFE and the Air Force. The Air Force lost an Airman and two F-15s over the Gulf of Mexico and the first of only 21 B-2s during a deployment to Guam.

In USAFE, over the past 30 days, we've had 36 reportable mishaps. They've run the gamut; falling off aircraft, out of windows, and off balconies; rolling, hitting and crashing vehicles; running an F-16 off a runway; putting a jack stand through an A-10. And ... we've had our first on-duty fatality in over eight years.

It's time to re-focus.

Too often, the problem is not the equipment, weapon system or vehicle we operate; it's us. Human factors remain the most frequent cause of our mishaps. Human factors have accounted for 67 percent of the Air Force's mishaps in the last 11 years. USAFE is no different. Specifically, distractions, failure to follow procedures, alcohol, fatigue, and inadequate risk assessment are our leading causes. Target these areas. If the mishap is preventable, we should all be absolutely, 100 percent committed to preventing it.

On or off duty, we need each and every one of you, and your families, to keep your eyes focused on the task at hand -- whether flying an aircraft, operating ground equipment, or driving or riding a POV.

Sometimes, there's a temptation to thing you're in "too much of a hurry to go through all the steps." Wrong. When you are under the time-pressure of the mission, even in the heat of the battle, the long-established procedures don't become less important, they become more important. Adherence to "tried and true" procedures is what keeps us out of trouble when it gets hectic.

Accomplishing the mission while safeguarding our most precious assets -- Airmen -- is my highest goal. And remember ... it's a team event. We need to work safety together. Whether launching a sortie or preparing to leave on a well-earned family outing, plan ahead. Be prepared mentally and physically for every task, and don't be afraid to call "knock it off," when the situation demands it. That's what a good wingman does. Fly safe.